Pigmentation Explained: Everything You Need To Know

Dark spots, age spots, sun spots – what IS pigmentation? We explain your uneven complexion and suggest solutions for clearer, brighter skin.

You may not have deep frown lines or crow’s feet, but if you feel like you’re ageing, chances are it’s thanks to uneven skin tone. Now, we’re not talking a sweet smattering of freckles, but bigger, uneven brown patches on not only the face but hands, décolletage and shoulder areas. It’s these ageing dark spots of bother that is known as pigmentation, caused by sun exposure and specifically the UVA rays which penetrate deep into your skin and cause ageing.

Skincare industry legend Dr Nick Lowe explains: “UVA stimulates your pigment cells called Melanocytes to manufacture the pigment called Melanin. This is responsible for your tan and also your unwanted dark patches”. These sun spots may take up to 10-20 years to develop, so if you notice some showing now it could have been caused when you were a child.

Dr Solish, the Cosmetic Dermatologist for Indeed Laboratories, explained that triggers of pigmentation in young women also include the contraceptive pill and pregnancy which alter hormone levels. This coupled with sun exposure can result in patchy dark spots, often on the upper lip and forehead.

Until recent years one of the only ways to really treat pigmentation was with lasers, which are a good option for some but come with many drawbacks. Dr Solish says: “Lasers are expensive, can cause a lot of down-time and the problem can come back. Plus you can only laser people with light skin.”

Another option is with prescription strength bleaching creams containing steroids but Dr Solish says these can be “irritant and toxic, and some contain mercury which is illegal”. NOT a pretty solution. In response, he helped develop Pepta-bright (boots.com), a product which works deep within the skin’s cellular level.

Prevent future pigmentation and sun damage by wearing a UVA and UVB shielding sunscreen, feeding your face with antioxidants (primarily fruits and veggies) and avoiding prolonged periods of sun exposure. Adding a brightening product designed to tackle pigmentation to your skincare regime, making it the first product you use after cleansing and toning day and night, can help turn back time.